You can never do too much for Galway Hospice. Never. Ever. No donation is ever too big. Ever. You could get your granny, stick a price tag on her, photograph her, put her on eBay and it still wouldn't be too big a gesture. You could wait for your team to get to an All-Ireland final and you could raffle your tickets and give the money to the Hospice and it still wouldn’t be too big. You could walk naked up The Reek using slippers made out of porcupines and a thong knitted from the roughest wool of the rarest goat and if you said you were doing it for Galway Hospice, nobody would dare say you were mad. They’d nod, and say ‘fair play to ya. Mighty cause, mighty.”
There is no gesture that would ever be considered over the top when it comes to helping out Galway Hospice because what they do is so bloody brilliant and essential. When you're sick and shocked and helpless and faced with the enormity of a life-changing illness, there is nothing so wonderfully magical and humbling as the unsolicited kindness of strangers. And they are strangers merely because they are people you will hope you will never meet, but when they come into your life and your home and your family, they become some of the best friends you will ever have.
There is nothing as grounding as the onset of sudden illness. There is nothing as egalitarian as suddenly finding yourself on the flat on your back on a trolley staring at the lights in the ceiling in Casualty or sitting across a desk from a doctor telling you thousands of carefully enunciated words but the only ones that make their way through the foggy dew of your mind are “cancer, time, treatment”. Everything else gets blocked out, everything else seems irrelevant and you just want to go into a corner and scream and suddenly wake up from a dream and hope that it's not true. But for thousands every year here in Galway, it is true and the enormity of it all is just too overwhelming.
And you feel alone, and frightened and angry and sad....
And then come along the team from the hospice.
And suddenly the blackness of it all doesn't seem so black, they bring a light into lives, and they look after the practical things, and they help you accept the realities and reduce the regret and make you appreciate time you have left, and time you have lived. And they are there to stop your family from crumbling before you and you from crumbling before them. They bring a dignity back to your life that you thought had dissipated the moment you hear the doctor speak.
So many lives have been transformed near their end by the team from the hospice. So many families cry when asked to describe just how important the Hospice team are to them and the work they do. They just cry, They cannot get the words out without welling up. And we want our Hospice to be strong and well resourced, but it is a constant battle to raise funds and to stay strong for those who need the services.
That is why we should all be thrilled this week to hear that the Galway Hospice is going to be around forever. That in the short term, there will be diggers onsite next Monday to start work on new car park spaces and a new entrance for the existing facility behind the church at Renmore. And then there was the great news on Monday evening that 14 acres have been purchased at Merlin Park that will enable the city to have a future-proofed hospice; one that will occupy a sensory space in the woodland, that will have resources to grow as it is needed. But that might be five years away. And the money to build it will have to be raised euro by euro.
I would love it if I could write here some day that the hospice doesn’t need your money anymore, that the Government and the HSE will fund them to the levels they need, but in reality that may never happen. So that is why it is vital that we treasure the Galway Hospice the same way we treasure all our other local institutions. Like Druid, they are master thespians in the theatre of life. They play a role that is vital for our area. When you see anything being held to help the hospice, please do. Because every day your friends and your family are getting news that will mean they need them. Well done Galway Hospice for everything you are doing. The city and county will stand behind you to ensure you continue to be angels of kindness and care.